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Researcher Immerses Young People in Arctic Science

Middle school students from Alaska's North Slope recently spent a week exploring science with a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher in Barrow, Alaska.

The students worked with Alessio Gusmeroli, a glaciologist at the UAF International Arctic Research Center, to learn about their environment, from permafrost and different types of soils to plants and animals. They used technology, such as an infrared thermometer, a microscope and a GPS, as well as their own senses of touch and smell.

In order to simulate ice-rich and ice-poor permafrost, the students made a permafrost sample by mixing soil and water and putting it in the freezer. A field trip to a nearby beach gave the students an opportunity to observe different sediments. They sampled mud, silt, sand and gravel, which they analyzed later under the microscope in the classroom.

One of the highlights included a visit to a meat cellar made in 1969 to shelter wild game from the family's hunts. The 13-foot-deep cellar had been dug in permafrost with an ice pick. The process took more than three months. Camp participants were able to observe and feel permafrost and hoarfrost first-hand, as well as learn about the Inupiat culture.

“Sure enough, I got reminded that working with kids this age is not a simple thing,” admitted Gusmeroli. Despite some challenges, he said, he firmly believes in the importance of passing on scientific knowledge and his love of science to the next generation.

“I’m not really trying to teach the students. Rather, I try to transmit my enthusiasm in exploring nature,” Gusmeroli said during the camp.

The camp was conducted at Ilisagvik College, with funding support from Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips.

To show some of their camp activities, students created videos available at these links: Day 1: http://youtu.be/BpdnKm5TKJU; Day 2 and 3: http://youtu.be/j4G_8nxyxpQ; Day 4: http://youtu.be/zs4ZuMm6wXI.

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